Felix Salmon

The social utility of short selling

April 6, 2010

John Hempton today lays out the short case for First Solar (and, parenthetically, Palm and Garmin as well), and in doing so says that, in this case at least, I am “not necessarily” harsh in describing such activity as “socially useless”:

The National Housing Survey and the real estate bear market

April 6, 2010

There’s a huge amount of information in Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey; I’d recommend downloading the full 117-page presentation here. It confirms what I’ve been hearing anecdotally: that people still believe in housing as an investment, and that the enormous nationwide housing crash has done much less to alter Americans’ attitude towards homeownership than we might have hoped.

Counterparties

April 6, 2010

Slideshows done right: NYMag’s hilarious “History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things” is now up to 3.7M pageviews — NYMag

Ben Stein’s employer breaks the law

April 5, 2010

April 2 was meant to be a great day in the history of sleazy free-credit-report websites like Ben Stein’s employer Freescore. A new FTC rule came into effect (read all 22 pages of it here), forcing all such websites to have a huge notice across the top of every web page, saying that AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for credit reports under federal law, and providing a prominent link to this page.

The behavioral economics of earnings estimates

April 5, 2010

Tom Brakke has a great explanation of how and why earnings estimates move, based on a hypothetical analyst who wants to up his estimate to $1.65 while the consensus ranges from $1.22 to $1.35.

The Repo 105 list

April 5, 2010

As the SEC investigates the question of just how many banks were abusing Repo 105, Vipal Monga today points out that abusing Repo 105 is exactly the same thing as using Repo 105: there’s no conceivable innocent use of this particular part of the accounting-standards rulebook.

Tolling the Cross Bronx Expressway

April 5, 2010

Those who live close to it won’t be surprised to hear that the Cross Bronx Expressway is officially the most congested road in the US. It has an astonishing ability to instil deep-seated passions in drivers:

Michael Wolff’s doomed aggregation strategy

April 5, 2010

It’s pretty easy to adjudicate the fight between Sharon Waxman of The Wrap and Michael Wolff of Newser: just look at how the latter responded to the former. Not only did they link to the HufPo excerpt of Waxman’s complaint rather than to the complaint itself, they also took to hurling thinly-veiled legal threats, with Newser’s CEO writing to Waxman saying that “we are not free-riders and we would consider it libelous for you to make that claim outside correspondence”.

When prop traders turn hedgie

April 5, 2010

Jenny Strasburg finds a couple of former in-house prop traders with new funds of their own: Arvind Raghunathan, formerly of Deutsche Bank; and Mark Carhart, who was at Goldman’s Global Alpha fund when it blew up. Both are pushing a quant strategy, although Raghunathan layers on top some outsourced fundamental analysis, with more than 50 researchers in Chennai poring over public filings.